Starting Lineups: Can We Talk About Luis Suarez?

No Class Friday, Soccer — By on December 5, 2013 at 9:19 am

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If Luis Suarez isn’t one of the world’s most interesting athletes, he’s certainly one of its most polarizing ones. Not only does the Uruguayan possess sublime skill and finishing ability on the soccer field, but he often stirs up controversy seemingly on a whim. He lacks moral fortitude, which in most cases is an unfair charge to levy on an athlete whose personal life we know little about, but believe me when I say Suarez has earned it. His handball on the goal line prevented Ghana from becoming the first African nation to reach a World Cup Semifinal, he racially abused Manchester United’s Patrice Evra, he’s a habitual diver and he’s been suspended twice for biting opposing players. The most recent incident, a late-season snack on Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic’s forearm, resulted in a nine-game ban for Suarez.

He has since returned to the pitch where he remains a top 10 player in the world. On Wednesday, he scored four goals as Liverpool, coming off a disappointing weekend loss to Hull City, dismantled Norwich City 5-1.

I often wonder, when it comes to Suarez, how would American fans treat him if he played in one of our major sports leagues? It seems to me that American fans have a moral conscious when we consider the behavior of our professional athletes. One need look no further than the ugly Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin scandal to understand this. We’ve beaten the incident to death over use of the n word, bullying, the meaning of manhood and the difficulties of surviving in an abrasive locker room.

The consensus opinion is that Incognito should never play for the Miami Dolphins again. And, given the general public’s vision of a professional athlete, he probably shouldn’t.

In English soccer, it’s completely different. There was no jest in Suarez’s abuse of Evra. He insisted that the black left back would be a second-class citizen in Uruguay. This happened mid-match, in front of millions, not on a cell phone tucked behind the curtains of privacy. What did Liverpool do? They accepted Suarez’s punishment and moved on with him. It was the same story after the striker bit Ivanovic.

And it’s not just Suarez. John Terry allegedly racially abused Anton Ferdinand of West Ham United. He also impregnated his Chelsea and England teammate Wayne Bridge’s girlfriend. But when that news broke, it was Bridge who left both squads while Terry remains a living legend.

I’m not saying one way is wrong and the other is right. Too often in America we look to justify our gluttonous appetite for sports by fixating our athletes with some sort of moral obligation. Indeed the NFL has a personal conduct policy and the NBA has a dress code. There’s nothing wrong with entertainment for entertainment’s sake.

And yet, every time Luis Suarez scores a brilliant goal or nets a hat trick, I find myself wondering how any team still employs this guy. I cringe at the praise that Chelsea fans drown John Terry in. It just doesn’t seem right. But does it have to?

Your Thursday Links:

Gino Odjick in Quebec psychiatric hospital – The Vancouver Sun

By all means, Canada, leave P.K. Subban off Olympic team — The Sporting News

The Game Teams with L.A. Gang Leaders to Fund Young Boy’s Funeral – Karen Civil

Jawbone Tracked Hundreds Of Thousands Of Up Users To Find The Most Sleep-Deprived States – Fast Copmpany

Nike LeBron 11 Black History Month Detailed Pictures – Kix And The City

How Adidas Used Negotiating Tactics to Fix World Cup Whining – Businessweek

The Ultimate Sports Fan Gift: Your Own Personal Stadium Starting At $30 Million — Forbes

A holiday lesson: One young N.J. athlete’s devotion to his sick mother — NJ.com

Previously-untold Sean Avery/Joe Sakic story shows how NHL veterans enforce on-ice respect — The Hockey News

Rory McIlroy Back On Track With Win In Australia — USGolfTV

Dillon Friday

Philadelphia born. Raised in God's country aka Duluth, Minnesota. Give me a frozen pond and an open pitch and I'll be happy. Follow me on twitter @noclassfriday

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    5 Comments

  • Bola says:

    I’m a Liverpool fan and I can’t stand the man. I even contemplated switching teams because of Suarez. In England, the league is quick to take action for conduct on the field. You will be fined suspended, relatively quickly. But your Job security is based your play on the field, fan response and purchasing power. I do not believe the league takes action for off the field behavior and allows the legal system to levy punishment. It’s kinda ridiculous, but so is the system we have here. Commissioner Goddell & the NCAA punishing Black players disproportionally compared to other. The punishment of celebrations are flat out absurd too. Some how we need to find a balance. What that is I do not know.

    • Dillon Friday says:

      I agree with all of this. Performance and behavior are blended together in American sports. You could probably throw public perception into that mix as well. A lot of the times it’s unfair, and I’m not even talking about the race dealings of the top leagues.
      Soccer has always separated a player’s play from his off field persona. Look no further than Diego Maradona, he a coke head, performance enhancing drug user, and friend of such political leaders as Hugo Chavez. No one thinks twice about his place in soccer history.
      I am of the opinion that the mass American media has sensitized everybody to the most innocuous slips in character. Sometimes, the media should just back off.

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